VOA news 2019-03-24

This is VOA news. I’m David Byrd in Washington.

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said Saturday that Islamic State was defeated in the final shred of territory of Baghuz in Syria as AP’s Ben Thomas reports.

It took months of fierce fighting but the Syrian Democratic Forces raised a yellow banner over the village of Baghuz Saturday, liberating the last pocket of territory held by Islamic State militants.

Linda Robinson at the RAND Corporation says the SDF approached the battle in a deliberate manner.

“Seeing all of the civilians coming out of hiding and out of these tunnels, there has been a real effort to avoid civilian causalities.” Yet, many of those civilians continue commitment to Islamic State group’s cause.

And Robinson says IS has already made an alarming transition to insurgency. “They’ve been able to maintain a rhythm of attacks on casualties.”

Something U.S. diplomat William Robak acknowledged at a ceremony in Baghuz. “We’ve been clear that the campaign is not over.”

I’m Ben Thomas.

At least 1,300 passengers and crew are being evacuated off of a cruise ship after it sent out a mayday call on Saturday.

AP’s Julie Walker reports.

Rescue workers in helicopters had to launch a high risk evacuation of the Viking [Ocean] Sky cruise ship’s passengers and crew, hoisting them up one by one to the helicopter as heavy winds and high waves tossed the ship from side to side off Norway’s western coast.

Meanwhile, people on the ship still waiting to be evacuated posted video showing chairs and other furniture being tossed around and part of the ceiling collapsing on people.

Authorities say the Viking Sky cruise ship sent out a mayday after running into engine trouble.

I’m Julie Walker.

For more on these stories, be sure to visit our website This is VOA news.

As many as one million people marched through London on Saturday to demand a second referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

AP’s Karen Chammas has details.

The sound of beating drums echoed through the streets of London as the “People’s Vote March” converged on UK Parliament where the fate of Brexit will be decided in the coming weeks.

The march which some estimated to be one million strong comes a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to lawmakers saying would only bring her EU divorce plan back to Parliament if there seems to be enough backing for it to pass.

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan rallied the crowd as he suggested Britain cancel Brexit altogether.

“… it’s time to withdraw Article 50….”

Just earlier in the week, EU leaders in Brussels set two deadlines for Britain to leave the bloc or to take an entirely new path in considering its EU future.

Karen Chammas, London.

Thousands of people fanned out across Paris and other French cities Saturday for the 19th consecutive week of “yellow vest” protests as the government faced pressure to avoid a repeat of the rioting and looting that marred last week’s rally in the capital.

Hundreds of demonstrators began marching shortly after midday from a square in the south of Paris across the city towards the Montmartre in the north, with banners calling for President Emmanuel Macron to “Get Lost!”

Authorities banned demonstrations in a large area in the western part of the city, including along the Champs-Élysées, the scene of last Saturday’s rampage.

Protest bans were also in effect in the centers of Toulouse, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rennes and the southern city of Nice, where Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to meet his French President Emmanuel Macron.

At least 10 people were killed and 10 others wounded Saturday when militants stormed Somali government offices in Mogadishu.

Eyewitnesses say the attack began when a suicide bombing exploded in the front gate of a compound that houses government ministries.

Attackers then stormed the buildings and engaged in a gunfight with government security forces.

Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility.

Separately, at least three other bombings were reported in Mogadishu. Two of the blasts targeted a security checkpoint where four government soldiers were killed and 10 civilians were wounded.

And at least 134 Fulani people, including women and children, were killed in a raid by gunmen dressed as traditional Donzo hunters in two villages in Mali Saturday.

The attacks took place as a U.N. Security Council mission was visiting Mali to try to find a solution to the violence that has killed hundreds of civilians in the past year.

For more, visit our website I’m David Byrd, VOA news.

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